J.R. Smith, likely entering free agency, says he ‘wants to retire a Knick’

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J.R. Smith had an incredible regular season for the Knicks, and was every bit deserving of the Sixth Man of the Year honor he was given for that performance.

He also was brutal in the postseason, struggling to find his shot ever since he was suspended for Game 4 in the first round of the playoffs against the Celtics.

Smith’s field goal percentage dropped from 42.2 to 33.1 from the regular season to the playoffs, and his three-point shooting went from 35.6 percent to 27.3. Because he couldn’t hit shots at the rate he was accustomed to, his scoring was down nearly four points per game in the postseason.

The Knicks couldn’t afford this much of a dip in production from someone who was relied upon all season long to turn in big shooting performances to support Carmelo Anthony offensively. There is plenty of blame to go around for New York’s elimination in Game 6 at the hands of the Pacers — head coach Mike Woodson’s questionable rotations, along with the disappearance of Tyson Chandler and ineffectiveness of Jason Kidd and Amar’e Stoudemire all played their parts.

Smith’s disappearance might have been the most glaring, though, considering how great he was in a sustained effort over the course of the season. And it couldn’t have helped his standing around the league as he’s likely to enter free agency this summer.

Smith has a player option for next season for just under $3 million, but is expected to opt out of that for a multi-year deal at a higher per-year salary. How much higher is the question, as the Knicks don’t have much in the way of cap space they can spend on Smith in free agency — even though he says he wants to play for New York until he retires.

From Peter Botte of the New York Daily News:

“I want to retire a Knick. I don’t want to go anywhere else,” Smith said. “I love my teammates, I love my coaches. I was standing in the locker room looking at my jersey after the game and just knowing that I don’t want to be anywhere else except in the orange and blue. We’ll see.”

Still, when asked if he’d be willing to take less money to remain in New York, Smith hedged and added, “I haven’t even thought about all that, that far. I still have to talk to (agent) Leon (Rose) and see where we’re at.”

If he means what he says, a lot of it will be up to Smith in terms of dollars he might be willing to leave on the table to stay in New York for the next few seasons, because he’s certain to get at least a couple of teams to offer him more than the Knicks can pay.

Interestingly enough, Smith may have unwittingly helped his cause to remain in New York by his poor postseason performance, which has to have lowered his value on the free agent market.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.

Report: LeBron James not planning to sit for elaborate pitch meetings in free agency

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LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.

But maybe once is enough.

Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.

If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.

This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Nikola Jokic to five-year max after declining team option

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.

But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.

Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.

That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.

Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.

As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.

Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.